saints (n.) - NFL franchise presently based in New Orleans; boondoggle (n.) - an unnecessary or wasteful project or activity; saintsdoggle (n.) - the Saints' potential relocation situation in New Orleans, and the resulting boondoggle by Louisiana to keep the team from leaving

Friday, May 27, 2005

Benson comments deciphered

Tom Benson finds himself in quite a pickle. He has cut off talks with Louisiana to renegotiate the Saints' deal with the state, and has leaked to media (through his attorney) rumors about selling the team and/or relocating it to either San Antonio (not likely), Albuquerque (are you kidding?), or Los Angeles (NFL's stated target).

Now, in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune, he demands that the team's fans, the city, and the state all step up to the plate to prove that New Orleans is an "NFL community." He argues that keeping the Saints in New Orleans is "not my decision to make," and that the local businesses and community must do "whatever it takes" to keep the Saints in New Orleans. Benson said, "I think it's the people's decision to make, not mine."

This, of course, is all codespeak. It requires deciphering.

You see, the Saints currently are having problems selling season tickets. (You may pick your jaw up off the floor.) In fact, they've sold less than 26,000 thus far, which is a tremendous decline over past years (over 50,000 were sold in 2003 and 2004).

Couple the escalating relocation drama with the fact that ticket prices in the Superdome have been raised $10 per ticket, averaging $62 a pop - which is about average in the NFL - and, lo and behold, you've got less ticket sales than in previous years.

Which is why Benson is now placing the impetus on whether the Saints stay in New Orleans on the citizens and businesses of New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana. He's effectively telling everyone, 'Hey, if you want us to stay, you darn well better pack that Dome no matter what.'

It's also why he has peppered his recent comments to media with things like, "after we win the Super Bowl" and "we're going to have a heck of a team and a heck of a season." Translation: 'Not only must you true Saints fans pack into the Dome, but if you don't, you're going to miss the best season in Saints history. Or the last. Or both.'

Bottom line: it's all about the bottom line. It's nothing more than a pitch to increase slumping season ticket sales.

As such, Benson conveniently forgets that Saints fans have been some of the most committed, football-hungry fans in the NFL.

Benson also has come out against renovating the Superdome, upon which, at least in part, the deal with Louisiana was premised. Now, he demands a new stadium, and he says "we better have it done before 2010."

I don't believe the state will build a new football stadium in New Orleans anytime soon. I'm sure Benson and the NFL know that as well. And with the NFL focused on a future in Los Angeles that will include one or two relocated franchises...well, it seems like Benson is biding his time and positioning himself to place blame on Louisiana's politicians, businesses, and citizens when he does sell the Saints for a cool $1 billion. And I'm sure his granddaughter will be just fine with having that passed down to her.


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